Writers Tools You’ll Use Every Day
I don’t believe that any software (or piece of equipment) can make me (or you) a better writer. I still have to do the hard work of putting words together in interesting ways—and so do you. So I cringe when I see apps, software, and other technology being pushed as “essential” for writers. Tolstoy, Shakespeare, and Austen did (and continue to do) pretty well without any of this technology.
I admit to being a techie attracted to shiny new things though, and I tend to be an early adopter. I read the lists of technology “must-haves” for writers. I try just about anything new, although these days it’s pretty hard to keep up with all the innovations. Still, I keep coming back to a short list of tried and trues that make my writing life easier.
Here are the tech tools I really use.
Microsoft Word is my word processor, my most important writing tool.
Okay, yes, Word. I am officially boring. I know there are at least a bazillion other writing programs out there designed for writers. Yes, I know they are multi-featured with storyboard capabilities, cool bulletin boards for organizing notes, outlining tools, customized layouts, and much more. Bells! Whistles! Wahoo!
But you know what? I just want to write. I want a clean, uncluttered interface free of distraction when I’m writing, and I want to spend my precious creative time writing, not learning a complex software program.
The other thing is, while Word may not be the best or most simple word processor out there, it remains the default application in the industry. At some point you’re going to have to submit your work to an editor, agent, or publisher in Word format. Why not create with it?
Dropbox provides a private place for me to store files on the web and synchs them across all my devices.
You should have more than one backup plan for your writing. Take my word for it, even if you haven’t already experienced a disaster or two like I have, your computer and external drives will inevitably fail. Be prepared.
Put a file in Dropbox, and it will be accessible via the web from any location, or on your laptop, desktop computer, tablet, or phone.
Use a public folder on Dropbox to easily share work with a writing group or writing partner, too.
Evernote is a note-taking and scrapbook tool.
With Evernote, I can write and store notes, save images and videos, capture ideas on the fly, and—with a quick tap to its browser add-on Webclipper—clip and save articles and links as I browse the Internet. Organizing everything I collect for present and future projects is easy with their tagging system.
And the best thing is, everything I store in Evernote is available to me online or offline on any of my devices: my laptop and desktop computers, iPad, and iPhone.
Pandora is Internet radio you can customize.
I find music too intrusive while I’m revising, but when I write background music seems to drown out potential distractions my fizzy brain might otherwise reach for. It seems to enhance the flow of words.
Start by entering a favorite artist, song, or genre, and Pandora creates a personalized station that plays that music and more like it. You rate the songs it selects by giving thumbs-up and thumbs-down feedback and Pandora refines your stations and plays, as their promotion says, “only music you love.”
You can enjoy the stations you create via the web or from your laptop and desktop computer, mobile phone, tablet, or e-reader.
Writers on a budget, please note. (Everyone is reading this part, aren’t they?) You can purchase Word as a standalone program or as part of a suite of programs. I don’t use the latest version, because the older version works just fine, and as Chris pointed out on this blog, the pricing and terms were kind of hinky and have only recently changed. Writer is a free program that can read and save in Microsoft Word format and is available as part of LibreOffice.
Dropbox, Evernote, and Pandora are free, but there are affordable fees you can pay to unlock additional features and support the developers if you enjoy the benefits of their work.
What writers tech tools have you tried and discarded? Which ones do you use every day?
Mary Ann de Stefano is a writer, editor, and organizer of writing workshops with 30 years of experience in publishing and writing consulting. Besides working one-on-one with writers who are developing books, she builds websites and advises on e-marketing. Mary Ann does business at MAD about Words, named as a play on her initials and love for writing.